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Review: ‘The Girl On The Train’ Is A Contrived Trip Better Suited For TV

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The Girl On The Train  is a 90 minute trip into a contrived world reminiscent of a Lifetime Original Movie, rather than a simmering thriller, starring Emily Blunt. Director Tate Taylor fails to recognize one of the most important rules when adapting a narrative shrouded in mystery: keep the audience in suspense. While I do applaud Taylor for adapting Paula Hawkins’ ( the author) non-linear storytelling in the film, if your adaptation of the source material is unable to hold the audience’s attention then what’s the point in paying to see the film?Anyone watching the film easily can point out the killer in less than five minutes.

For those who aren’t familiar with the source material, Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson, an alcoholic ex-wife obsessed with her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), and his new family. Every day, Rachel takes the same train and sits in the same seat so that she can watch from the window and spy on his new family.

The Girl On The TrainLiving a little further down the rail line are Megan and Scott Hipwell. Rachel slowly turns her obsessions towards them when she begins to notice just how happy and affectionate they are. Her jealousy begins to bubble and alcohol is how she calms herself down.

During one of her trips on the train, Rachel sees Megan kissing another man. This sends Megan over the edge, and she immediately decides to confront her (which is never a good idea when you’re a drunk). Her plans don’t go as anticipated; she ends up with some minor wounds and a missing chunk of her memory. To complicate things, Megan is now missing, and the police suspect Rachel.

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One of the highlights of the film is Blunt’s portrayal of Rachel. Blunt dives headfirst into Rachel’s alcoholism and seemingly has done a large amount of prep before filming. Rather than having her character holding on to bottles of booze during her countless train trips, we get to see her trying to hide her illness. She resorts to going into bathrooms or hiding around corners while she fills her water bottle with vodka.   Rachel seems to be mourning  the loss of what she believed to be a “perfect” life. She spends a good portion of the film blaming herself for all the woes that have befallen her. It’s a shame that an acting performance this sound is wasted on a movie that easily could have been seen on Lifetime.

The cinematography is efficient. Charlotte Bruus Christensen uses the surrounding scenery to her advantage to project the levels of inebriation in Rachel. For Example, during the pivotal scene in the tunnel, Christensen blends the forest and the inside of the tunnel all together to project a level of disorientation. She then jump cuts to a shot of a bystander coming to assist Rachel, but she decides to keep the shot of her face clear as can be while keeping the rest of the surrounding scene hazy and disoriented, giving the audience a feel for just how drunk Rachel was and legitimizes why she has a gap in her memory.

Other than Rachel, the rest of the characters are merely a collection stereotypical roles found in any melodramatic mystery. Justin Theroux fits the role of Tom, the ex-husband with a slight rage issue. Megan is definitely the super sexual free spirit who doesn’t want to be constrained. Scott certainly looks like the sleazy husband who easily could have murdered her wife. But everything’s just so predictable.

What’s surprising is, despite all of these negatives, I can’t say this film is completely terrible. If anyone is a fan of the book, you’ll certainly have a pleasant 90 minutes. The Girl On The Train has its moments, they just don’t justify having to pay to see it in theaters.

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Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.